Sleep is our body’s way of restoring its vital organs including the brain. But what happens when sleep is elusive over a long period of time? Research shows that the lack of consistent sleep can impact our brains in negative ways and increase our risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
A research review in Nature Communications recently concluded that persistent short sleep durations of six hours or less at age 50, 60 and 70, as compared to a normal night’s sleep of seven hours, was associated with a 30% increase in dementia risk. The study looked at research that followed participants for 10 years or more.
So, what happens in our brains while we sleep? “Sleep is a restorative function,” explained Jeremy Pruzin, MD, a memory care expert at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. “While we sleep the brain repairs synapses and clears substances, including the beta-amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
A study of nearly 2,500 adults found that having trouble falling asleep, as compared to other patterns of insomnia, was the main insomnia symptom that predicted cognitive impairment 14 years later.
Results show that having trouble falling asleep in 2002 was associated with cognitive impairment in 2016. Specifically, more frequent trouble falling asleep predicted poorer episodic memory, executive function, language, processing speed, and visuospatial performance. Further analysis found that associations between sleep initiation and later cognition were partially explained by both depressive symptoms and vascular diseases in 2014 for all domains except episodic memory, which was only partially explained by depressive symptoms.
“While there is growing evidence for a link between insomnia and cognitive impairment in older adults, it has been difficult to interpret the nature of these associations given how differently both insomnia and cognitive impairment can present across individuals,” said lead author Afsara Zaheed, a graduate student in clinical science within the department of psychology at the University of Michigan. “By investigating associations between specific insomnia complaints and cognition over time using strong measures of cognitive ability, we hoped to gain additional clarity on whether and how these different sleep problems may lead to poor cognitive outcomes.”
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep. Daytime symptoms include fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and having low motivation or energy.
Most people listen to music throughout their day and often near bedtime to wind down. But can that actually cause your sleep to suffer? When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, realized he was waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music — and particularly stuck songs — might affect sleep patterns.
Scullin’s recent study, published in Psychological Science, investigated the relationship between music listening and sleep, focusing on a rarely-explored mechanism: involuntary musical imagery, or “earworms,” when a song or tune replays over and over in a person’s mind. These commonly happen while awake, but Scullin found that they also can happen while trying to sleep.
“Our brains continue to process music even when none is playing, including apparently while we are asleep,” Scullin said. “Everyone knows that music listening feels good. Adolescents and young adults routinely listen to music near bedtime. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away at bedtime. When that happens, chances are your sleep is going to suffer.”
People in the UK with sleep problems are at an increased risk of dying, finds a new study from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University.
In a paper published by the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers reveal how they examined data* from half a million middle-aged UK participants asked if they had trouble falling asleep at night or woke up in the middle of the night.
The report found that people with frequent sleep problems are at a higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems. This grave outcome was more pronounced for people with Type-2 diabetes: during the nine years of the research, the study found that they were 87 per cent more likely to die of any cause than people without diabetes or sleep disturbances.
The study also found that people with diabetes and sleep problems were 12 per cent more likely to die over this period than those who had diabetes but not frequent sleep disturbances.
Malcolm von Schantz, the first author of the study and Professor of Chronobiology from the University of Surrey, said:
“Although we already knew that there is a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem starkly.”
“The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea. Still, from a practical point of view it doesn’t matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk.”
Professor Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University, the senior co-author of the study, said:
“Diabetes alone was associated with a 67 per cent increased risk of mortality. However, the mortality for participants with diabetes combined with frequent sleep problems was increased to 87 per cent. In order words, it is particularly important for doctors treating people with diabetes to also investigate sleep disorders and consider treatments where appropriate.”
One picture us worth a thousand words. In this case, I think the infographic counts for even more. I hope this is all old news to you and you are living it fully. As an 81 year old I can tell you that I am certainly glad to have adopted my healthy lifestyle for the past 10 years. It’s never too late. The body is an organic machine which means there is constant regeneration going on. Use it to your advantage.
Although most of my readers are over 21, it is worth remembering that good habits pay big dividends later in life. I hope you will pass along this info to any young adults in your social circle. Like a good investment, it can pay big dividends in later life.
Getting good quality sleep, exercising, and eating more raw fruits and vegetables predicts better mental health and well-being in young adults, a University of Otago study has found.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed more than 1100 young adults from New Zealand and the United States about their sleep, physical activity, diet, and mental health.
Lead author Shay-Ruby Wickham, who completed the study as part of her Master of Science, says the research team found sleep quality, rather than sleep quantity, was the strongest predictor of mental health and well-being.
“This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality. While we did see that both too little sleep – less than eight hours – and too much sleep – more than 12 hours – were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being.
I have posted numerous times about the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Now it turns out that previous head injuries can also affect night time rest.
Every year, thousands of people end up in the emergency room or hospital with minor head injuries, often diagnosed as concussions. Concussions usually result from falls, violence, bicycle accidents or sports injuries.
In the first days following a severe concussion, it is common to experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, an increased need for sleep or difficulty sleeping.
“Most people fully recover from their problems after a short time, but some individuals suffer long-term problems that affect their quality of life, work and school,” says PhD candidate researcher Simen Berg Saksvik at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Psychology.
We are all going to be springing forward Sunday morning as we set our clocks ahead one hour. But, is that an innocent action as far as our body is concerned? WebMd has some useful tips on the temporal alteration.
The daylight-saving time change will force most of us to spring forward and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. But waking up Monday morning may not be so easy, having lost an hour of precious sleep and perhaps driving to work in the dark with an extra jolt of java. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.
Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.
In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.
New research accepted for publication in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the scent of a romantic partner can improve your quality of sleep. This is true regardless of whether or not you are consciously aware that the scent is even present. Continue reading →
This is probably something more appropriate for with first week of January, not the fourth. Better late than never. Johns Hopkins Medicine has some very useful information here.
The new year can be an exciting time, brimming with the promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. It’s also an opportunity to recommit to your health and well-being: Eat better. Exercise three times each week. Drink more water.
I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.
A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.
Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the research is not only one of the largest studies, but also the first to assess how sleep deprivation impacts placekeeping – or, the ability to complete a series of steps without losing one’s place, despite potential interruptions. This study builds on prior research from MSU’s sleep scientists to quantify the effect lack of sleep has on a person’s ability to follow a procedure and maintain attention. Continue reading →
Yoga and physical therapy (PT) are effective approaches to treating co-occurring sleep disturbance and back pain while reducing the need for medication, according to a new study from Boston Medical Center (BMC). Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the research showed significant improvements in sleep quality lasting 52 weeks after 12 weeks of yoga classes or 1-on-1 PT, which suggests a long-term benefit of these non-pharmacologic approaches. In addition, participants with early improvements in pain after 6 weeks of treatment were three and a half times more likely to have improvements in sleep after the full, 12-week treatment, highlighting that pain and sleep are closely related.
Previous research from BMC discovered that yoga and PT are similarly effective for lowering pain and improving physical function, reducing the need for pain medication. In this study, results for sleep improvements were compared over a 12-week intervention period and after 1 year of follow-up.The image is in the public domain.
Sleep disturbance and insomnia are common among people with chronic low back pain (cLBP). Previous research showed that 59% of people with cLBP experience poor sleep quality and 53% are diagnosed with insomnia disorder. Medication for both sleep and back pain can have serious side effects, and risk of opioid-related overdose and death increases with use of sleep medications. Continue reading →
Getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night is a struggle for most people, but even those who do may not have the best sleep.
New research from Iowa State University finds more Americans have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The changes were independent of sleep duration, and difficulties were most prevalent in people with healthy sleep length, the findings show. The study, published in the journal Sleep Health, is one of the first to look at how multiple dimensions of sleep health change over time.
Don’t forget to set your clock back tonight before you go to sleep.
Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2:00 am this Sunday. In theory, “falling back” means an extra hour of sleep this weekend.
Winston Churchill once described Daylight Saving Time like this: “An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn… We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”
That’s an overly optimistic view. In reality, many people don’t, or can’t, take advantage of this weekend’s extra hour of sleep. And the resulting shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days, according to Anthony Komaroff,M.D., Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter.